Tuesday tip: Use tags efficiently

While tags and groups are technically the same, their different way of presentation can be more flexible, especially in large DEVONthink knowledge collection spreading out in many directions. Using the tags bar (which you show and hide with View > Show/Hide Tags) you quickly add single tags to documents or remove them. Automatic completion makes adding already known tags easy. To select documents that have one or more tags assigned to them, either use the tag view (View > as Tags) or, even better, create a smart group (Data > New > Smart Group) that always contain all matching items completely automatically.

If you want to assign multiple tags to or remove them from a larger number of documents at once, use Scripts > Tags > Add tags to selection or Scripts > Tags > Remove tags from selection which you can install in DEVONthink Pro from Help > Support Assistant on the Extras tab.

11 Responses to “Tuesday tip: Use tags efficiently”

  1. S says:

    Can you give some concrete examples and scenarios of why one would enable or disable “Exclude from Tagging” for a Group?

    And, while this is off-topic of your post, some concrete examples and scenarios of why one would enable and disable “Exclude from Classification” for a Group would be useful as well.

  2. Eric says:

    Thank you for this suggestion!

  3. S says:

    I’m not making a suggestion, but asking for help and information.

    In and of itself, “tagging” is a simple concept. But, the slew of options in DT for tagging makes using tagging difficult to understand.

    I’ll ask more directly:

    1. Why would one opt to NOT have items in a group tagged with that group’s name? Please provide a concrete, real-world example.

    2. Why would one opt to NOT allow items in a group to be classified by DT’s AI? Please provide a concrete, real-world example.

    Also, I disagree (or at least, I am confused) with the idea that “tags and groups are technically the same.” It appears to me that tags and groups both use the same piece of metadata in associating and displaying items. This metadata is called, in the case of groups, “group name,” and in the case of tags, “tag name.” Groups and tags use this metadata to associate items into sets, and to display sets and items in two distinct ways: as a collection of hierarchically-organized containers that resemble folders, and in a flattened view of tag names.

    However, a “tag” is also a “group name.” And, depending on the options set, it is possible for items to have zero “tags” and — or — zero “groups” associated with them.

    Thus, groups and tags are not the same at all. And, this common piece of metadata is never called by any consistent name; rather, it is called alternatively “group name” or “tag name,” or worse, just “group” or “tag.” This makes the idea that they are “the same” a mind-bender.

    Unless I’m completely wrong. Like I said, I am really confused by groups and tagging. My confusion results from having no concrete, real-world examples.

    I’m sure that the tagging and naming (and classification) options are in DT not simply because “it can be done this way,” or “just because we can,” but for for good reasons. However, I can’t figure out what these reason are , or why to use or not use these options.

    Thank you for your help.

  4. Mark says:

    I am also confused by tags and groups. Please answer “S” questions.

  5. Eric says:


    1) Some people sub-divide groups into groups for each month, just to make it less overwhelming when they look at them. But they don’t want to use the numbers 1 – 12 as tags. I personally have set all my groups to be also tags.

    2) Some people add also data to their databases that is somehow related to projects but content-wise so diverse that it “clutters” the AI.

    While technically groups and tags are the same (both are simply “attached” to an item by the computer), they are used and displayed differently. Agreed.

    Why offer this mixed model? The group that contains a document including all groups that contain that group are attached as tags to the document, say: Biology > Paleontology > Fossils > Dinosaurs > Flying dinosaurs > Pteranodon. By adding a documents to any other sub-group of “Paleontology” all documents automatically inherit this tag and you can quickly get all documents dealing with paleontology by searching for that tag.

  6. […] and DEVONnote treat groups and tags, basically, the same but displays them different (see here). That means that if “Exclude Groups from Tagging” is unchecked in a database’s […]

  7. Sam says:

    I want to create tag groups first and add tags to these groups through applescript. I found no api to create tag groups in devon think.

    Please help.

  8. eboehnisch says:

    @ Sam: This is not possible we’re afraid. Just add a tag to some document and the tag group is created automatically for you. It’s self-maintaining.

  9. Kim Peacock says:

    I cannot remove an incorrect Tag from 2000 incorrectly tagged items.

    When I remove tags from an item, it disappears but then I go back to the item and it still has the same wrong tag.

    When I try the script, I get a message asking for the name of Tag (and in parentheses it says separated by semi-colons). I type in the Tag I wish to remove but nothing happens.

    Please help.

  10. eboehnisch says:

    @ Kim Peacock: Blog comments are, well, blog comments and hardly suitable for customer support. I’ve opened a ticket for you and a support representative will be with you shortly.

  11. Andi says:

    Hi, I would like to filter all documents with tags empty.
    Please help. Thx!

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